30 September 2017—2 September 2018

Empire Through the Lens

Bristol Archives holds an extraordinary collection of photographs and films showing both public and private aspects of life in the British Empire and Commonwealth.

From about 500,000 images, we asked 27 people to each choose one piece. The selectors include development workers, artists, photographers, historians and relatives of the photographers.

They each bring a different perspective to the collection, and represent a broad range of personal knowledge, aesthetic appreciation and academic thought on the people and countries shown in the images, the legacy of Empire and the post-colonial experience.

Most of the collection dates from the 1880s to the 1960s and is just a snippet of the many thousands of images that are being catalogued and digitised. 

Please note that the exhibition may contain some challenging images.

This exhibition is a display of the collection held by Bristol Archives and will take place at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

The ‘Exploring Empire’ cataloguing project was funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.


Empire Through the Lens: Audio Described tour for blind and visually impaired visitors
Thursday 12 April, 4pm – 5pm
Limited spaces, Book in advance.


View the exhibition online


Additional information

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery opening times:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Closed Mondays except Bank Holiday Mondays and Mondays during Bristol school holidays: 10am-5pm

Empire Through the Lens events